Our eighth author in the Everyday Parsi 2020 series is Ervad Mehbad Dastur of Toronto, Canada
I would like to bring to the attention of readers the significance of Muktad. Photographed below are my grandparents Ervad. Mahiyar Dinshawji Nalladaroo and my grandmother Bapaimai Mahiyar Nalladaroo. My grandfather was the Panthaki (head priest) of the Banaji Atash Behram in Bombay, India which he took care for so for many years.
As I grew up in Bombay, I was a very mischievous boy and so my Bapaiji suggested that I be admitted to the Dadar Athornan Boarding Madressa (Dadar Athornan Institute) where I would learn the prayers to become a priest and at that same time also go through regular school studies. During my time in the boarding school I also learned the ancient Avesta language and along with it the meaning of some of the prayers that we pray regularly.
At the age of 12, I was ordained as a Mobed as per the Kadmi rituals by my uncle Ervad. Faramroze A Behramkamdin pictured below by going through the three Nahan’s. This photo with Fali uncle was taken on the day of the Anniversary Jashan of the Banaji Atash Behram back in Nov 2013.
I continued the same path as my grandfather Mahiyar pappa and many other family members to assist with prayers at the Banaji Atash Behram during the Kadmi as well as the Shenshahi Muktad/Gatha days. As I prayed at the Banaji Atash Behram, I noticed how my family members remembered my grandfather and other souls who had passed away. There were rows of metal vases on top of tables filled with roses and other flowers. As I grew a little older, my Bapaiji had the biggest influence on me as regards to Gathas. She used to have Atash Dadgah in our old house and always used to keep the fire lit during the Muktad days with prayers.
My teachers, family and friends always emphasized doing good to others unconditionally without expecting anything in return. I continued assisting with the Muktad and Gatha days while in Bombay at the Rustom Framna Agiary in Dadar Parsi Colony where we eventually moved and I have continued to do the same even in Toronto from the time I arrived here. However, it was not just the Gatha days that I assisted with the prayers but also during the monthly days of Fravardin and Behram roj and also other days when the Agiary needed help in Bombay. The dearly departed souls are always remembered through the year not just during Kadmi, Shenshahi or the Fasli Gatha days. It is always important to remember them and take their blessings.
Since moving to Canada as a young adult with my parents, I have been assisting at our Toronto Darbe Mehr at ZSO and OZCF during the Gatha days and continue doing so every year. My elder son Xersis also went through his Navar ceremony at the age of 12 at the Rustom Framna Agiary in Dadar Parsi Colony, Bombay. He also assists me with the regular prayers and during the Gatha days, family jashans and other prayer ceremonies.
Over the years being in Canada and visiting India on a few occasions, I have always taken the time to meet my older family members, teachers and my friends. I remember meeting my Principal Ervad. Rustomji N Panthaki back in Dec 2000 along with his wife Jalamai.
How can I forget them? Even though he was strict with me I owe everything to them for shaping my life. I still clearly remember when our principal Rustomji used to tell me “Avaaj kari ne bhano” (pray loudly so your voice can be heard). It is the same discipline I have instilled in my son Xersis and am very proud to see the way he prays today. When we pray we are praying for the peace of the souls. There are happy occasions along the way but also sad occasions at times for us and for the family we pray for. I feel a connection in me when I say the names during the prayers.
I was recently talking to my wife that as we grow older, we go through a lot of souls that have impacted our lives and passed away. Sometimes it happens suddenly and we don’t get the chance to see them again in person but we always remember them. What better way to remember than during the Muktad/Gatha days? It’s only when you remember the souls it makes you feel more connected with them. Remember them and then celebrate the New Year.
One thing that we all know that no one will be there with us forever. There will be a time when someone will go suddenly or when someone may lose a close family member, so during GATHAS it is the best time to focus and pray to our departed souls for their peace and blessings. It is during Muktad days that departed souls’ fravashi comes down and it is at that time of praying Afarghan, Farokshi and Satum you venerate their fravashis for their peace and blessings and to know that they are in peace and in oneness with you. When volunteering to pray at Darbe Meher for others and taking my family there to pray & give respect to departed souls is the best thing any Parsi Zoroastrian should do during the Muktad/Gatha days even if it is just praying 2 Yatha Ahu Vairyo and 1 Ashem Vohu. Close your eyes and take a moment to reflect back at life and take a moment of silence and remember your near and dear ones.
With the current turbulent times and the pandemic, we have to thank God everyday as we are alive never to forget the souls of our loved ones and receive their blessings. It is through their blessings one continues living in Good Thoughts, Good Words and doing Good Deeds over the years.
Tandarosti and Best Wishes to all around the world.
With Peace and Gratitude,
Ervad. Mehbad Dastur